Walmart has agreed to pay $3.1 billion to resolve lawsuits accusing the pharmacy of selling drugs that contributed to the opioid epidemic, but denied the allegations and didn’t admit liability.
The proposed settlement announced Tuesday would include up to $116 million going to the state of New York, according to Attorney General Letitia James, who helped lead negotiations for the deal.
Walmart said it is “proud of our pharmacists and our efforts to help fight the opioid crisis” as it “strongly” disputed claims that its stores didn’t correctly regulate its prescriptions.
“Walmart believes the settlement framework is in the best interest of all parties and will provide significant aid to communities across the country in the fight against the opioid crisis, with aid reaching state and local governments faster than any other nationwide opioid settlement to date, subject to satisfying all settlement requirements,” the company said Tuesday.
Earlier this month, fellow pharmacies CVS Health and Walgreens agreed to pay about $5 billion each in opioid settlements that also stem from lawsuits by state and local governments in the United States. Neither pharmacy admitted wrongdoing, either.
Walmart’s deal, which needs to be approved by 43 states, would see the company pay out most of the settlement within a year.
“For decades, the opioid epidemic has ravaged communities here in New York and across the country,” James said Tuesday. “Pharmacies such as Walmart played an undeniable role in perpetuating opioids’ destruction, and my fellow attorneys general and I are holding them accountable.”
New York is now due to receive a total of $2.1 billion through opioid-related settlements, which James says will help the state “continue to recover, rebuild and strengthen our defenses against future devastation.”
Over the past 20 years, the opioid epidemic has been blamed for more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S., including an average of around 80,000 annually in recent years.
CVS would pay out its settlement over about 15 years, and Walgreens would pay its out over the next decade if the deals are approved.
“As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation, we remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and well-being of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis,” Walgreens said in its Nov. 2 announcement.